Free medicine scheme creates chaos

Confusion, long lines for prescribed drugs mark first day of government scheme

Delhi government’s free medicine scheme opened to chaos on Monday with patients struggling to find medicines on the first day of its rollout.

At the Lok Nayak Hospital, nothing had changed for Anjum, who could not get a generic drug for sore throat.

She had inquired about the medicine some days before also and had come to the hospital again in the hope of finding it on Monday, after the government’s announcement about increasing its stock.

“I had come around 15 days before and it was not available. I thought it might be there from February 1. I can’t afford it from outside,” said a disappointed Anjum.

Saba Hashmi had been standing in the queue at the hospital’s pharmacy since 9 am. At 3 pm she exited the queue, frustrated as she could only get two out of the five medicines prescribed by the doctor at the hospital for a thyroid problem.

“The doctor said all these medicines will be available at the shop, but I got only two. The people at the counter did not say by when I can get these,” she said, showing the crosses at the counter against the medicines not available at the pharmacy.

Similarly, Amandeep, who was in the queue for medicines for his father admitted in the hospital, said that since the morning he had seen several patients returning without getting their medicines.

The Aam Aadmi Party government had earlier announced that from February 1, there will be no shortage of medicines and consumables mentioned in the Essential Drugs List in government hospitals.

“The hospital has placed an order of both drugs and consumables and will receive it soon. Some drugs still remain to be procured. The hospital administration has also instructed doctors to prescribe drugs and consumables currently available with the hospital,” said Dr Y K Sarin, Medical Superintendent at Lok Nayak Hospital.
Red tape

While patients could not get the  essential medicines, to add to their woes was the confusion that prevailed due to the scheme.

According to a new direction by the government, patients could get the medicines only after a stamp by the prescribing doctor.

Almost everyone Deccan Herald spoke to was not aware of this direction.
Fifty-seven year-old Sakina had been waiting since 12 pm and finally when her number came at 3 pm, she was in tears when asked to get her prescription stamped by the doctor and then come again

“What am I supposed to do now? Will I have to stand in this queue again after the stamp,” she says furiously.

A senior administrative official said this rule existed before but will be strictly implemented from now.

“This is to maintain records of medicines prescribed from outside,” he said.
A senior official of the Central Procurement Agency (CPA) said the government has called a meeting of doctors and medical superintendents this week to update the Essential Drug List. Around 150 more drugs will be added to the list.

“Of the currently over 700 formulations of medicines, we will add another 150. Drugs which are rarely used will be done away with. The list will be such that doctors do not require to prescribe beyond this apart from emergency cases. The existing shortage of medicines will be sorted in another two weeks,” said the official.

The government’s three new warehouses will stock medicines for six months at least.

“Hospitals have been asked to place advance orders to avoid shortage of medicines,” said the official.

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